Photo from Compassion UK’s blog site
16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’ ” – Luke 14:16-24 (ESV)
There is an old saying the goes like this: “You never know what you have until you lose it.” And the easiest way to lose a gift is to refuse it.
A gift, by definition, is something of value or benefit that is freely given to another without obligation. No strings attached. Granted, in our society, there is no free lunch. When the hucksters on late night TV promise a free gift with your order if you call now, wisdom often pipes up and says, “No, no, no… The offer is too good to be true.”
Likewise, if a man gives his grandson five dollars to buy some ice cream, that is a gift, given out of love. No obligations. No strings attached. (Except perhaps the hope that you might call or visit more often.)
The host in this parable of Jesus has obviously gone to great lengths to throw a sumptuous feast for his friends. The celebration has been planned – and the guests invited – well in advance. This was no surprise party.
And there were no strings attached. Nobody was getting recruited to sell products and lure friends into a Ponzi scheme or multilevel marketing pyramid. The host of this banquet simply wanted to be a blessing.
One can assume that the many he invited were not strangers to him. They may have been friends, family, people he liked and wanted to get to know…
But they all had an excuse to look a gift horse in the mouth. All were too busy, too self consumed, to be inconvenienced by this man’s loving invitation.
The allegory contained within this parable is simple. The host, the Lord of the house, is God. God had invited the Israelites – His chosen people – to a feast, a banquet, a relationship with Him.
And, while they initially accepted the invitation, when Jesus (the Promised and Much-Sought Messiah) came to let them know the feast was ready, they couldn’t be bothered. They were too into their own Pharisee thing. They rejected the gift.
And they paid for it dearly.
And now, the gift is offered to us. We are the blessed recipients of the great feast of the Lord through Jesus Christ. Often we are invited through pain or fear or sorrow or guilt or shame. We finally open the invite when we hit bottom. When the pain becomes unbearable, the anxiety too stressful, the guilt too pressuring, the battle too big… When we have nowhere else to turn, we accept His gift.
We have set before each and every one of us the invitation to come to the Lord’s banquet. Here we can feast on all the good gifts of God: forgiveness, eternal salvation, our path set straight, amazing grace, truth, righteousness, hope, rest, peace, strength, wisdom, direction, love…
We begin to seek the Lord and, as we do – if we truly look to establish a relationship with our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ His Son – we find ourselves relying less on His gifts and more on Him. We begin to love God (and others) not for what He can do for us, but for Who He is. After all, that is how He loves us. Unconditionally. No strings attached. Just pure, genuine love.
Today is your chance. Today you can cast off the ugliness in your life: the anger, the doubt, the fear, the need for control, the dashed hopes and shattered dreams, the broken relationships… Today – right now – you can be rid of the burdensome yoke around your neck.
(Jesus said), “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
When the servant comes to call of you because the grand feast is ready, and a place for you is set, do not reject the invite. This is your chance. This is opportunity knocking. And if you refuse, you may never know what you just said “no” to.